The Walking Dead Pilot Is Horror Cinema At Its Finest

Has The Walking Dead ever produced a more iconic image than Rick Grimes (andrew lincoln) riding towards an abandoned Atlanta through an empty highway? It’s a wonderfully somber take that sets the tone impeccably, and its reputation has spread so far that even people who have never seen the show can recognize it. AMC has also apparently realized its power considering how much they applied it into every marketing piece for the show’s first season, a season that, in retrospect, feels like it belongs on a different show entirely. There was a time when The Walking Dead it was considered prestige television, it was talked about in the same way as other AMC shows like breaking bad Y Crazy men. But those days are long gone, and now The Walking Dead seems to exist simply because watching the latest episode has become part of our weekly routine. Recent seasons may have brought some much-needed pep to proceedings, but it’s probably for the best that it’s wrapping up.

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But The Walking Dead It didn’t always exist as a vehicle to create (what seems like) an infinite amount of spin-offs, and going back to Season 1 after so long is like looking at a parallel universe where everything went right. It was the only season in which Frank Darabont he served as showrunner and was also the only one produced before AMC infamously cut the budget even as it demanded more episodes. As a result, Season 1 feels like a true movie spectacle in a way that future seasons won’t, telling an intimate story about nuanced characters who make it to the big screen at every opportunity. It’s fascinating to return, and its genius is cemented in its first episode. In just 67 minutes, Darabont creates the purest zombie experiences in popular entertainment, distilling all excess until he’s left with one of the genre’s most gruesome yet tragic tales. He’s right up there with the greatest pilots in television history, and he’s what The Walking Dead he has spent the last twelve years frantically trying to measure up. The episode is called “Days Gone Bye.” In hindsight, they couldn’t have chosen a more fitting title.


“Days Gone Bye”’s Greatest Strength Is Its Restraint

the walking dead pilot episode andrew lincoln as rick grimes walking down the road

Rather than overload the episode with action and gore in the hopes of gaining attention, Darabont (who also directed this episode) keeps things simple. Very little happens from a plot perspective (the result of Darabont taking your original script, cutting it in two, and then embellishing both halves to deliberately keep the pace low), but from a character standpoint, we’ve got a lot. Future episodes would play into the ensemble nature of the show, cutting between multiple storylines with dozens of characters that can occasionally seem a bit mismatched, but “Days Gone Bye” doesn’t follow this approach. Instead, we’re with Rick for virtually the entire runtime, and by keeping ancillary material to a minimum, Darabont turns the episode into an excellent character piece that reveals characterization through actions rather than words.

Rick Grimes is a refreshing leading man for a show like this. On one hand, he is a police officer with extensive knowledge of weapons and survival techniques, but he is also a recently comatose man who has not yet recovered from his injury. His backstory establishes him as someone who lives by a strict code of ethics, but suddenly finds himself in a world where those things no longer apply, resulting in an interesting dynamic where he is simultaneously the person. best and worst prepared for a zombie outbreak. The decision to throw him headfirst into the apocalypse after waking up from his coma is one of the smartest decisions Darabont ever made. Not only does it allow you to jump right into what we’re all here for, but it also makes Rick the perfect audience surrogate. He spends most of “Days Gone Bye” wondering what the hell happened while he was gone, piecing together the fragments of his missing months at the same pace as us. There’s a reason Rick continued to draw viewers in even after the show’s decline, and it’s impressive how much Darabont and Lincoln were able to do right with his first appearance.

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Darabont has horror abilities

the walking dead pilot episode andrew lincoln as rick grimes on the roof of the hospital looking at body bags

Darabont may be famous for directing Life imprisonment Y The green Milebut he got his break as a horror writer, contributing to the scripts of A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 Y The drop. With “Days Gone Bye” (the only episode he also directed), that lineage is on full display, with multiple scenes vying for the title of scariest. Living Dead moment. One of the main contenders is the hospital scene, a sequence that manages to turn ten minutes of someone walking down the halls into a master class in building tension. Sure, seeing a coffee shop door with ‘Do not open, dead inside’ scrawled on it is a bit revealing, but it’s the niceties that really sell the moment. The withered flowers, the broken clock, the utter stillness that permeates the entire episode—things that wouldn’t be cause for concern in isolation, but together they paint a completely different picture. Even before Rick walks out of his room, we know something is seriously wrong and things are going to get a lot worse before they get better.

What follows is a visual representation of waking up in a nightmare. Each step Rick takes plunges him deeper into the depths of hell, and that feeling proves strangely apt when he has to descend a pitch-black stairway with only a pack of matches to light his way. It’s one of the most stressful sequences on television, and your heart will pound in anticipation of the inevitable scare before it’s over. But Darabont doesn’t resort to such cheap tricks. Instead, he lets the audience’s imagination do the work for him, and as the best horror movies have continually shown, it doesn’t get any scarier than that. When Darabont unleashes a haunting image, he waits until we’re in the comfort of day, tricking us into thinking we’ve escaped the worst. As the glow of the afternoon sun fades, Rick peers into this strange new world to see row upon row of body bags strewn across the parking lot. He looks at them, not even trying to hide his tears, then runs off in the vague direction of his house. The haunting visuals are the perfect way to bring this flawless horror sequence to a close, and they established a precinct that the show has struggled to match ever since.

Even setting this scene aside, it’s impressive how many memorable set pieces Darabont can cram into such a short runtime without making things feel overdone. At times, “Days Gone Bye” has the feel of a greatest hits collection, packing every zombie-related idea Darabont has ever had into a single script without regard to how that would affect future episodes. One minute Rick is lamenting the state of affairs after discovering a couple committed suicide in his country house, and the next he’s fighting a horde of zombies while trapped under a tank. Even the in half beef The opening, a deliciously creepy sequence in which Rick encounters a zombified girl in the middle of a deserted road, has become a famous part of horror culture in its own right. The silence is what makes it. Rick’s search through the metallic graveyard is made all the more spooky because his footsteps are the only sound for miles around, and it’s amazing that the simple addition of a second pair can elicit such immediate fear. It’s the calm before the storm, and peace has never felt so ominous.

rick meets morgan

the walking dead pilot episode andrew lincoln as rick grimes god forgive us

Rick doesn’t meet many living people in “Days Gone Bye”, but the exception to this is Morgan (lennie james), a character who solidifies the brilliance of the episode. When we meet him, he lives in a dilapidated house in Rick’s old neighborhood. “This place, Fred and Cindy Drake’s,” says a shocked Rick as he staggers through the dilapidated living room. “He was empty when we got here,” Morgan replies, a cold statement that says more than enough. Whatever he once was is irrelevant; now it is a refuge for him and his son Duane (Adrian Kali Turner), and his knowledge of the outside world proves invaluable as he guides Rick through this hellish new reality. When Rick questions why he hasn’t moved on, he’s coy about his reasons, but the eventual revelation becomes the episode’s most devastating moment. His wife has been converted and now wanders the streets outside the house as a living symbol of his failure. Morgan’s secret is Rick’s worst fear, and this revelation is all he needs to resume his family’s search for him. They part with the promise that they will meet again. It’s unclear if either of them thinks that will happen, but the hope is there, and they could both use a little hope right now.

The next scene is one of the best of Darabont’s career. Haunted by his past for too long, Morgan grabs a rifle and tries to put his wife out of her misery…but he can’t. Instead, he just breaks down crying. It’s heartbreaking to watch and serves to highlight just how harrowing a zombie outbreak would be. These are not mindless killers who exist solely as target practice for the living, but small pockets of tragedy that have their own story to tell. Darabont intercuts Morgan’s ordeal with footage of Rick encountering a legless zombie as he was leaving town. Rick laments that this had to happen to her, unable to hide those tears once again, then fires a single bullet into her head to give her some peace. The juxtaposition between the two scenes is phenomenal, and together they give the impression of a show that would never allow simplistic emotions to overshadow the human misery inherent in such a setting. After almost two hundred episodes, The Walking Dead it has never yet overcome this moment.

the walking dead pilot episode andrew lincoln as rick grimes does not open dead inside

Returning to “Days Gone Bye” is a strange experience. It feels like reading a novel where the original author was quietly removed somewhere around the chapter four mark, and that’s hardly a stone’s throw from the truth. Darabont’s firing during season 2 is a blow The Walking Dead he never fully recovered, and while we could spend time speculating how things would have looked if he had stuck around, we should be thankful we got what we did. The entire season 1 is worth watching, but there’s no doubt that “Days Gone Bye” is the highlight. It’s a shame The Walking Dead it peaked with its opening, but that’s also a testament to the quality of the episode. The ensuing twelve years have cemented its place as one of TV’s great pilots, and for those looking for a pristine zombie experience, it’s hard to recommend anything better.

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